Tuesday, September 16, 2014

free Kindle download: 37 historians discuss the Civil War

This first volume in the series contains transcripts of 37 Question and Answer sessions conducted over many years in the Civil War Forum on CompuServe. The guests are among the most prominent historians in their field, each with particular areas of expertise. Many of them signed on to discuss the research and writing of one of their (then) latest books, or to lend insights about the Park Service battlefields on which they have built their careers.

It’s a free Kindle eBook download from now through Friday, September 19, 2014, so get it while the gettin’s good. I’ve included some links to a few of the books mentioned in passing or under discussion in the Q&A’s.

Download the free Kindle edition HERE.

Feel free to pass the word to anyone you think might be interested. After Friday, the cost goes up to $1.99, with a portion being donated to the Civil War Trust.

Here is a list of the included guests, in alphabetical order, and a general idea of what they discussed:

Stacy Allen (Shiloh); Edward Ayers (misc. Topics); Jean Baker (Mary Todd Lincoln); Ed Bearss (misc. topics); Mark Bradley (Battle of Bentonville); Kent Masterson Brown (Lee's Retreat from Gettysburg); Victoria Bynum (Free State of Jones); Chris Calkins (Siege of Petersburg; Retreat to Appomattox); John Coski (Museum of the Confederacy; the Battleflag); David Eicher (Civil War in Books); Michael Fellman (Robert E. Lee; William T. Sherman); Gary W. Gallagher (Robert E. Lee, etc.); D. Scott Hartwig (Gettysburg); John Hennessy (Second Manassas); Harold Holzer (Abraham Lincoln); Nathaniel Cheairs Hughes, Jr., (Battle of Bentonville); Terry Jones (Campbell Jones, LA Tigers); John A. Marszalek (William T. Sherman); William Marvel (Andersonville; CSS Alabama vs. USS Kearsarge); Richard McMurry (War in the West); James M. McPherson ("Drawn with the Sword"); Steve Meserve (Mosby's Confederacy); William C. Miller (Jed Hotchkiss); Jim Morgan (Battle of Ball's Bluff); Michael Musick (Researching at the National Archives); Alan T. Nolan (Robert E. Lee); James Ogden (Battles of Chickamauga & Chattanooga); Harry Pfanz (Battle of Gettysburg); Brian C. Pohanka (misc. topics); Gordon Rhea (Overland Campaign); Gene Salecker (Sultana Disaster); John Simon (Ulysses S. Grant); Craig L. Symonds (Joe Johnston; Pat Cleburne); Emory Thomas (Robert E. Lee); Jeffry Wert (George Custer; James Longstreet); Terry Winschel (Vicksburg Campaign); Steven E. Woodworth (Jeff Davis and his Generals).

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress has made three more Civil War-related collections available online (including Clara Barton and Charles Reed)

From Michelle Krowl at the Library of Congress: 

I wanted to let you know about three Civil War-related collections in the Manuscript Division that have recently been digitized and posted to the Library of Congress website. They are chock full of primary source material that may be helpful for classroom use, student papers, scholarly articles, dissertations, books, or just for general interest.

Each collection can be accessed in several ways. Each has its own online presentation site, but can also be accessed through online collection finding aids that are available in html and pdf format. (Sometimes it can be easier to find specific items or types of material through the finding aids.) Original materials can be found through the “Collection Items” tab in the online presentation, and the “Digital Content Available” links in the container lists of the finding aids. All of the collection material is the same regardless of how it is accessed, but two of the online presentations have additional essays, as well as updated related resources.

When you open up the web page with bibliographic information for that set of original materials, you’ll want to either click on the photo of the item (sometimes it is a photo of the file folder) or the “enlarge xx images” link under the photo (both are on the left side of the page). Both will launch the viewer through which the material can be seen.

The new online collections are:

Clara Barton achieved historical fame as a nurse during the Civil War, as an international relief worker following the war, and as the founder of the American Red Cross in 1881. All of these activities are reflected in Barton’s extensive collection of personal papers. Of particular interest to students of the Civil War is Barton’s correspondence with family members like Martha Elvira Stone, the pocket diaries in which she noted the names of soldiers she encountered in hospitals, records of the Office of Correspondence with the Friend of the Missing Men of the U. S. Army, documents relating to the identification of Union soldiers buried at the Confederate prison of Andersonville, and Barton’s war lectures.
Online presentation     Finding aid in html     Finding aid in pdf

The Gresham material in the Lewis H. Machen Family Papers includes family correspondence before, during and after the Civil War. The highlight of this section of the collection is the seven Civil War-era diaries kept by LeRoy Wiley Gresham from 1860 to his death in June 1865. LeRoy, a native of Macon, Georgia, kept a diary entry nearly every single day of the war, beginning when he was about 13 and ending at his death at the age of 17. He notes what news he is hearing, the prices of things purchased for him, and generally what life is like for a teenager on the home front during the war. The reason LeRoy does not enlist in the Confederate army is that he was a long-time invalid, and the diaries also reflect the symptoms of his health problems (the exact origin of which are not specified) and what remedies he uses for treatment and pain management.
Online presentation     Finding aid in html     Finding aid in pdf  (Containers 29-32)

The papers of Civil War soldier and artist Charles Wellington Reed, who served with the Ninth Independent Battery, Massachusetts Light Artillery, includes approximately seven hundred sketches and correspondence relating primarily to the Civil War. The letters are often prefaced by drawings which further illustrate not only the rigors of military life, but also the amusing and mundane aspects. The contents of the letters and corresponding sketches well document the ways in which soldiers adapted to seasonal changes in the weather, how they amused themselves, and the routines of camp life in the Army of the Potomac.
Online presentation     Finding aid in html     Finding aid in pdf

Other collections with manuscript materials are available at: http://www.loc.gov/manuscripts/collections/, while the legacy collections still part of the American Memory portal are available at: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/index.html

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Kansas City Southern

. . . heading east out of Vicksburg across the Big Black River (April 2014). I was singing that old Gene Clark tune in my head for the rest of the day.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Battle of Atlanta -- 150 years ago (yesterday)

One of a string of battles in Sherman's Campaign for Atlanta, this July 22, 1864 clash is the only one called the Battle of Atlanta. The Civil War Forum toured the field on 2008. Below are photos of the approximate sites where a general officer on each side was killed—the Union's James Birdseye McPherson, and on the Confederate side, William H. T. Walker. Four days after the battle, Sherman wrote home to his wife Ellen, "I lost my right bower in McPherson."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

"In an ongoing revisionist history effort, Southern schools and churches still pretend the war wasn't about slavery"

From Salon.com:
The Southern version of history also prevailed for decades at Civil War battle sites, thanks to the fact that Congress appropriated money for the National Park Service, and Southerners in Congress had their hands on the purse strings. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the Park Service—under pressure from the academic community and a few members of Congress—made it a priority to revamp its exhibits to “interpret [the Civil War] and the causes of the war based on current scholarship,” said Dwight Pitcaithley, a professor of history at New Mexico State University who was chief historian of the Park Service from 1995 to 2005. In December 2008, Pitcaithley gave a talk to public school educators in Mississippi, and used as part of his presentation this quote from the Mississippi Declaration of Secession: “Our cause is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery, the greatest material interest of the world.” That sentence is now prominently displayed on the wall of the National Park Service visitors’ center in Corinth, Mississippi, near the site of the battle of Shiloh. Pitcaithley took a picture of the display and used it in his presentation. After his talk, he was chatting with a thirty-four-year-old black school principal who had grown up in Mississippi, attended its public schools, and received his university education there. “I asked him if he’d ever seen that [quote] and he said no—he’d never even heard of that.”
Read the full article here

Monday, June 09, 2014

Dressing up like a rebel is not enough. You need to do your homework.

What’s with Confederate reenactors and the matter-of-fact denial of slavery’s central role in bringing about the American Civil War? Not a month goes by, it seems, without a news item quoting a reenactor expounding along those lines. Incredibly, they don’t settle for simply diminishing the role of slavery, as some apologists are wont to do. No, frequently they’ll proclaim that the war had nothing to do with slavery whatsoever.

It’s astonishing, and sad, that 150 years after the war, with all of the resources at our disposal, all of the painstakingly researched histories of that era, all of the primary source material that is increasingly being digitized and made accessible, we still have people putting forth this long-discredited, neo-Confederate fantasy.

Like the modern day holocaust denier, one must make a determined and willful effort to ignore or discount a great mountain of evidence to arrive at such a misguided conclusion. Even blinders allow a horse to see what’s in front of it, but the slavery-as-cause denier rejects even that.
It’s one thing to tell a reporter, as this reenactor did in Florida recently, "If people know their history, the Civil War has nothing to do with slavery." Discriminating readers can dismiss this nonsense as effortlessly as we dismiss “birthers.” But taking this alternate history into a classroom should not be so easily dismissed. It is an affront to education, and should be refuted.

Most recently I encountered an article about a Confederate reenactor who gave a brief “lecture” to a class of 8th graders in a Santa Clara, California middle school. I knew instinctively as soon as I saw the photo of the gray-clad rebel in a classroom that the article would put forth the great Lost Cause lie. And sure enough, it did.

Said the reenactor: “Most kids say the reason the Civil War happened was because of slavery, and I tell them it wasn’t. The war was about 11 states that wanted to leave the union, and it was about the attack on Fort Sumter.”

Never mind that the lawful governments of two of those states did not vote to leave the union. Never mind that the reason the other slave states wanted to leave the Union was that they saw it as the only way to preserve and perpetuate slavery.

How do we know this? We know this because the secessionists themselves told us that.

Confederates of the day made no bones about this. They were forthright and unabashed about their motivations. Strange then, that people who today dress up like pretend Confederates have come up with an interpretation contrary to that of the secessionists themselves.

I defy any one of them to sit down and read Charles Dew’s, Apostles of Disunion. The first states to secede sent ambassadors to the other slave states to try to convince them to secede. Here we have Southerners speaking to each other in their own words. Their unmistakable message is that the only “state right” under consideration was the right to maintain and perpetuate slavery.

Professor David W. Blight, in his essay, “One Rebel State Never Surrendered: Denial — Confederates’ Own Words Condemn Their Cause,” wrote:
“The best way to understand why secession and war came in 1860-61 is to look at what white Southerners themselves said they were doing. How did the leaders of secession explain the origins of the war?
South Carolina's "Declaration of Causes" justifying secession included the claim that the Republican Party would "take possession of the government the South shall be excluded from the common territory and a war must be waged against slavery until it shall cease throughout the United States."
Texas secessionists proclaimed their greatest fear in the crisis as "the abolition of slavery" and "the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races."

In Mississippi, secessionist delegates unanimously announced that their "position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery." The Mississippians declared that they "must either submit to degradation and the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union."

Georgians agreed, accusing "abolitionists and their allies in the Northern states" of "efforts to subvert our institutions, and to incite insurrection and servile war among us."
Blight also quoted John Mosby, the legendary “Gray Ghost,” who said after the war, “"I always understood that we went to war on account of the thing we quarreled with the North about. I never heard of any other cause of quarrel than slavery."

That pretty well sums it up.